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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review

Frost/Nixon
Dir. Ron Howard
Contents:(brief nudity (don't worry, not Nixon) some F-words (not many more than your avg PG-13 film), and real-life newsreel violence. I'd feel fine with mature 12 year old's and up seeing it.)

***

Frost/Nixon is a gripping film, and excellent historical melodrama. It is Ron Howard’s most accomplished directing job, as showcased in a tremendous cast-wide performance from Frank Langella to a restrained Kevin Bacon in a rather difficult role to get right tonally; even Oliver Platt delivers a great performance.
What Frost/Nixon is also, is a film which stands as evidence to its own superfluity. There is really nothing film specific here which adds to the stage play, and the film’s structure, a documentary made out of re-created faux-documentary footage (think if someone made Man on Wire as a narrative fiction film but included all of the interviews, only those were recreated with actors), seems to beg the question why wasn’t this made as a documentary? It would certainly have had just the same amount of tension, only instead of seeing a great performance by Frank Langella you’d be seeing the real thing. That’s about the only reason I can think of for this film’s existence as a piece of political docu-drama, to witness great acting. The script is essentially the transcript of the interviews, and other recorded conversations, though the most noticeable fictional device, a late-night drunken phone call from Nixon to Frost, is written in simplistic broad strokes and seems to push the film too much toward being a boxing film. That Howard spends so much time with his cast, much like Clint Eastwood he’s an actor’s director, he has, in the past had his share of technical shortcomings. This film, perhaps because of the material and its source, fits his style perfectly, and there are not jarring or noticeably deficient. It’s good entertainment, but I couldn’t help but be distracted by its structural choices. Howard does allow reality to enter in when Frost shows Nixon the results of the bombing of Cambodia. However, what could be a startling break of the mimetic space, instead is just another aspect of the scenery (perhaps to different choices on real footage which make Waltz With Bashir so devastating).

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